Tend Your Leadership Mill

Decide upon your major definite purpose in life and then organize all your activities around it. – Brian Tracy

Seven generations ago, my family found a place on a narrow part of the river in my hometown of Ozark, Missouri where the water ran really strong. They decided to build a dam there, and ultimately a water-powered mill. As long as the mill was running, the river was healthy. But a few years ago, the economics no longer worked and the mill closed. Over time, the water became stagnant and grew wider and dirtier. That area is now functionally a swamp. It doesn’t serve anyone. It’s not creating any jobs. It is the exact same amount of water in the same location, but it’s just not creating the impact that it once did.


Our leadership is like that resource. If we are intentional about how we use our capacity, then we are going to do great things. We are going to mill grain and feed families. We are going to create jobs and build towns. But, when we quit managing that resource, or stop paying attention to it, it becomes like the swamp – filled with back water, mosquitos and disease. We have to be intentional about protecting our leadership so that it has more impact than just potential.

One way to do this is by setting consistent strategies to begin and end each day, because good leaders have to be intentional about their time. For example, one leader that I work with closely ends his day, every day, by reviewing a color-coded notecard that spells out his following day. The colors indicate community activities, business meetings or phone calls that need to be made. He reviews his plans for the next day right before he goes to bed so he can mentally prepare for what’s coming. He checks it again first thing in the morning and keeps that card in his pocket all day long to keep his leadership on track.

My version of the pocket card, and maybe yours too, is to have reminders on my phone. In addition to meetings, I also put inspirational quotes or important reminders on my calendar that pop up throughout the day to help keep me centered. Before I leave the office, I pack my briefcase or backpack with whatever I am going to need the next day so that I’m never rushed in the morning.

Many great leaders also begin their mornings or end their days with reflection. I have a friend who reads the Bible for 15 minutes every morning. He gets up, brushes his teeth, has a cup of coffee, sits down in his pajamas and spends 15 minutes reading the Bible. I have another friend who spends time reading business-driven motivational passages every evening. Why? They do it to gain center and to remind themselves that no matter what happens throughout their day, they need to stay focused on what drives them.

Leaders need clearly understand who they are, where they want to go and what they want to achieve, and have strategies to get there, otherwise you are in danger of transforming from a productive, flowing river to a stagnant, smelly swamp.

Always Forward.

Question: What strategies do you begin and end your day with to help keep your leadership resource on track?

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